The mighty 106-win Dodgers met their end on Saturday against the underdog Atlanta Braves. After beating the Division winners, the San Francisco Giants, in a tight five-game Division Series (see last article), “dem bums” were worn down, injury-ridden, and barely still standing.
The Braves’ and Dodgers’ notable injured players looked something like this:
This table shows four notable players on each team’s WAR—Wins Above Replacement, where in between 2 and 4 is generally an All-Star and below zero is below average. Muncy was injured on the last day of the season, an extremely unfortunate situation, while Turner was injured in the NLCS. All the players on the Dodgers (even Bauer, who has been on the restricted list for months) have a WAR of above two, which shows the Dodgers are without four All-Star caliber players. The Braves’ big loss is Ronald Acuña, who accumulated an astounding 3.6 WAR in about half a season. It is clear that the Dodgers, at the start of the championship series, were more affected by injuries—the combined WAR of the four Dodgers players is 13.8, while the combined WAR of the Braves players is 5.2. Thus, the Dodgers team that won 106 games in the regular season was not the team on the field for Game 1 against the Braves.
The loss of Kershaw and Bauer, along with Dustin May, who needed Tommy John at the beginning of the season, stretched thin the team’s starting rotation. The Dodgers heavily relied on Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urias, who could not carry the team on their backs when they were called on to pitch on short rest and in relief. Because of this, the Dodgers’ pitchers let up about 1.4 runners per inning, whereas in the regular season they let up only 1.1 runners per inning pitched.
Besides the injuries, the Dodgers’ demise can be explained by two other factors: inconsistent and unstable hitting, and some questionable decisions by Dave Roberts.
There is an excellent statistic on Baseball Reference called WPA, which stands for Win Probability Added. It is defined as the “change in probability caused by the batter during the game.” A change or +/- 1 would indicate one win added or lost. Only three Braves players had a WPA worse than -0.1 (costing the team one tenth of a win or more), but seven Dodgers did, including three stars the Dodgers relied on all season: Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Corey Seager.
Roberts’ questionable calls included putting in Max Scherzer in relief in Game 5 of the NLDS, using Julio Urias as a reliever two days before his start, and using Steven Souza instead of Gavin Lux in Game 6 as a pinch hitter with two men in scoring position.
Sorry Dodgers fans and enjoy the World Series!